Last week, our superintendent announced her decision to modify the model under which our high school has operated for the past several years. We run as 4 small schools, courtesy of a Gates grant and other funding. Each small school has a principal, counselor, and central office staff. We will continue in 4 small schools as student/parent/staff surveys, dropout rates, and other sources support the model. We will lose our 4-principal structure. Instead, we will have one decision-making principal, and three assistant principals. The likely structure will show one head principal, two assistant principals in charge of 2 small schools each, and one assistant principal will be charge of learning and professional development. Who will do each job?
The principal position will be opened up via nationwide search. Current principals are invited to apply. The 3 assistant jobs will be available to current principals as well. The decision is not about their competency. It’s about a model of effective leadership. I’d work for any one of our current administrators. (I’ve worked for MUCH worse.) I’m not debating the change, or reasons for the decision. I’m not a licensed administrator so clearly have no grounds on which to evaluate such a decision. My position is that of supporting my colleagues and our work with students and families as we make the transition.
I’ve been through several disruptive admin changes in the past 25 years. I’ve also been through changes that were fairly smooth. The difference? Teachers. It’s now up to us. Our current principals will do their best to support us and our kids through the process. It’s possible they will continue as our leaders in one way or another after the changes happen. It’s also possible that their roles will change, and with it, the culture familiar to our students. They are being asked to transition us through a time in which their own lives are also potentially very uncertain.
We truly hope for positive change; although any change at all is stressful to many of our students. Many have carefully-constructed support groups of peers and teachers. They fear their support group will be destroyed. Many students are at school because being home, whatever that might currently be for some, is not a pleasant alternative. We want to give them reason to keep coming back. Helping kids learn to problem-solve in their daily life and to see new opportunities when change takes place is something we do every day. We must be very mindful of ways to offer this support as we navigate the coming changes with our students.
In the meantime….. while the current principals adjust to the change and figure out how best to help our students and staff transition into this new model, most of us believe we’ll be here next year. We as a staff must realize that it’s all really up to us. We must be ready and able to offer students an atmosphere of continuous support. We know our students and what they need. We know what they will need next year. We know that fracturing advisory groups and small school cohorts can also fracture learning momentum for many students. We welcome them in the morning. We listen to their stories and challenges. We laugh with them and sometimes feed them breakfast and lunch. We tell them as best we can that we’ll be there for them next year, when we really aren’t all that sure ourselves. We send them home every afternoon with words of care and support and laughter and love.
We want changes to be made with OUR kids in mind, with excitement and anticipation of new opportunities. As the resident Pollyanna, I’m putting my efforts into making this transition as smooth as possible for our kids and for my colleagues. Who’s in?